Apr 112011

The story of gianduia’s naming is as common as that of its creation.  As with the prevailing account of its 1865 origin, the naming myths are also traceable to Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co.

Cagliano’s February 1932 article in Il Dolce sets forth what has become the most common story about the naming of gianduiotti (1).  Cagliano states that, when first introduced in 1865, the confections were originally called givo (2).  The name change purportedly came during the carnival of 1867, when the actor playing Gianduia tasted the givo and enjoyed them so much that he issued a special certificate acknowledging the manufacturer’s worthiness and authorizing the company to call the product by Gianduia’s name.  Cagliano claims that, as of 1932, this certificate was still kept in the Turin offices of Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. (3).

As discussed in the preceding section, Cagliano’s principal source of information was Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. (4).  The broad outline of his version of events comports with the previously mentioned company circular that was issued in the early twentieth century, quoting from an earlier statement in 1899 (5).  The text of the 1899 statement describes the 1865 invention of gianduia by Prochet, Gay & Co.  It says that the company first sold the pieces under the name givo (6).  It says that “it was only in 1867, in the time of the Fantastic Fair of Turin, that this nickname was changed to that, most appropriate and characteristic, of Gianduia” (7).

Letterhead from Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. circular

It is in the matter of the certificate that Cagliano departs from the 1899 Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. statement.  The older statement simply says that the name was changed in 1867, while Cagliano claims this was a result of Gianduia’s admiration for the product and a specific, written authorization to call it by his name.  While Cagliano says the 1867 certificate was in the offices of Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. at the time of publication (1932), he neither quotes from it nor claims to have personally seen it.  No author prior to Cagliano mentioned the 1867 certificate and no subsequent author has seen or authenticated it.  Caffarel S.p.A. has never produced the document, not even in the ambitious company history overseen by Carlo Bächstädt-Malan (son of Walter Bächstädt, who, at the time of Cagliano’s article, was bringing Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. out of bankruptcy) (8).  If the 1867 certificate existed in 1932, it appears to have been lost or destroyed in the intervening years (9).

Some confusion arises, however, in that some writers describe the naming of gianduia as occurring during Gianduia’s carnival encounter with givo two years later, in 1869 (10).  According to such authors, that date is based on the text of a parchment allegedly given to the manufacturer by the actor playing Gianduia.  Though most proponents of that theory do not provide a citation for the claim, they generally appear to be drawing from a 1976 work by Enrico Gianeri, who provides the text of the parchment  (11).

Whether the putative 1869 parchment is, in fact, the same document Cagliano describes as having been delivered in 1867 has remained an open question, perhaps because no one has asked it.  The question seems obvious enough, especially since Gianeri contradictorily describes the 1869 parchment as having been delivered in 1867.  The discrepancy between Gianeri’s dating of 1867 with the date provided (twice) in his quotation from the text of the 1869 parchment suggests an effort to fuse two existing narrative threads: the 1867 dating provided by Cagliano and the 1869 date claimed in a Caffarel, Prochet & Co. marketing campaign beginning in the late 1930s (about which, more later).  As with the 1867 document, the existence and contents of the 1869 parchment have never been verified (12).

In addition to the two-year discrepancy in dating, the text of the 1869 parchment does not mesh with the details in the Cagliano account.  For instance, the 1869 parchment is a general recognition of the company, without mentioning any product and without authorizing the manufacturers to call any product by Gianduia’s name.  The 1869 parchment also confusingly—perhaps even anachronistically—refers to “Caffarel Prochet Gay,” while Cagliano clearly states that the inventor and recipient of the 1867 document was Prochet (13).

The text of the purported 1869 parchment does not answer any of the important questions about gianduiotti—not the “who” of its inventor, not the “when” of its invention, and not the “how” of its naming (14).  While Cagliano details the naming of gianduiotti, he does so by elaborating beyond the narrow account in the early twentieth century Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. circular.  Cagliano’s narrative provides the color and specificity that a student of gianduia craves, given the spottiness of the historical record (15).  However, as we have previously seen, serious flaws plague his understanding of the history of both Caffarel and Prochet (16).

Both stories about Gianduia’s written authorization to rename givo first appeared in the 1930s—the 1867 version in Cagliano’s 1932 article and the 1869 version in a Caffarel, Prochet & Co. marketing campaign that commenced in 1936.  This belated emergence, coupled with the fact that neither the 1867 nor 1869 document has been produced or authenticated, invites skepticism.

In the absence of the actual documents to support the 1930s stories, we must turn to older sources.  The clearest, running picture of Turin’s carnival celebrations from the mid to late 1860s emerges in the flow of information from the Society of Gianduia in the newspapers of the day: the Gazzetta del Popolo and (from 1867) the Gazzetta Piemontese.

As mentioned in Part 12, the Society of Gianduia communicated with the public through Turin’s newspapers, issuing bulletins months in advance of the actual celebrations through the end of the carnival season.  The bulletins, usually written under the name of Gianduia, served many purposes.  They announced the dates and schedules of events.  They solicited funds and listed the names of individuals and businesses who made contributions to the Society.  They promoted and announced the winners of the wine competition and lottery.

Beginning in 1867, the Society of Gianduia began announcing new awards in connection with the celebrations, beyond those for the wine and livestock competitions.  Initially, awards were given for “the most elegant crews” in the parade and for noteworthy exhibitors (17).  By 1868, the categories became more formalized, with twelve medals awarded, along with twenty “parchments of honor for the most beautiful booths at the fair” (18).  Recipients of medals and honorary parchments were selected, not by any individual, but by the Jury of Gianduia.  Honorees chosen by unanimous vote of the jury were so designated in the published bulletins, with those chosen by a simple majority also identified accordingly.

Gazzetta del Popolo, February 13, 1869

In the twenty-second bulletin of the Society of Gianduia, “Gianduia” announced the honorees for the 1869 carnival season (19).  The jury unanimously honored five booths, with fifteen booths honored by a majority.  Among the “majority” honorees was P.E. Caffarel (20).  P.E. Caffarel’s booth received another honorary parchment from a majority of the jury in the following year’s carnival celebrations (21).  Though the Society of Gianduia published the list of recipients of parchments in the 1867 carnival year, Caffarel was not among the honorees (22).

This information from the newspapers of the 1860s substantially undermines elements of both of the naming myths that first appeared in the 1930s.  Cagliano’s claim that an honorary certificate was presented in the 1867 carnival does not square with the manufacturers’ absence from the Society of Gianduia’s published list of honorees for the year.

In both of the naming myths that emerged in the 1930s, the document presented to the company is portrayed as a unique honor.  In fact, the honorary parchment was but one of twenty presented each year, secondary to the medals; and Caffarel’s recognition by the jury was not unanimous.  In both 1930s versions of the naming myth, it is Gianduia himself who tastes the givo, proclaims their excellence, and presents a certificate.  In fact, a jury issued the award in the name of Gianduia.

In both of the naming myths, the substance of the document and the intent behind presenting it was an authorization to call givo by the name of Gianduia.  This is contradicted by the purported text of the 1869 parchment, which says nothing of the sort.  The text of the 1869 parchment is consistent with the historical context, offering a general honorable mention for participation in the fair (23).  The honorary parchments were not recognition of a specific product (as claimed in the 1930s stories), but of the aesthetic quality of the exhibitors’ booths.

P.E. Caffarel ad for cacao shells, in Gazzetta del Popolo, February 6, 1868

While the many divergences of the 1930s accounts from the 1860s facts and context are damaging, one discrepancy stands out above the rest.  Both parchments verifiable by contemporary newspapers—in 1869 and 1870—were awarded to P.E. Caffarel.  Yet Cagliano insists that gianduiotti were invented and put into commerce by Prochet, Gay & Co.  Similarly, Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co.’s early twentieth century circular and late nineteenth century statement also affirm that Prochet, Gay & Co. invented gianduiotti.  Yet until July 19, 1877, Michele Prochet had no interest or involvement in Caffarel (24).  From the mid 1860s to mid 1870s, neither the Gazzetta del Popolo nor Gazzetta Piemontese contains any record of Prochet, Gay & Co. receiving a medal or honorary parchment during carnival.  The 1869 parchment neither had the meaning attributed to it by the 1930s interpreters, nor was it presented to the purported inventor of gianduiotti (25).

Since the 1867 parchment did not exist and the 1869 parchment is irrelevant to the question of gianduia’s naming (both because of its substance and its recipient), we must abandon the picturesque and oft-repeated tales of the jovial Gianduia providing written authorization for the renaming of givo.  The humble, verifiable etymological connection between Gianduia and cioccolatini di Gianduia bears far more weight than fumbling 1930s etiological myths.


1.  Cagliano, A.  “Frammenti di Storia del Cacao e del Cioccolato con Particolari Cenni all’Italia e Torino.”  Il Dolce: Rivista delle Industrie Italiane del Cioccolato, Biscotti, Caramelle, Confetture ed Affini.  Year 7, No. 72, February 1932.  Pp. 52-3.

2.  Cagliano writes the word as givu (i.e., with a “u”), misspelling “givo” in a way that makes more phonetic sense to an Italian ear.  Nearly all nineteenth and twentieth century Piedmontese dictionaries spell the word “givo” (with the exception of Attilio Levi’s 1927 Dizionario Etimologico del Dialetto Piemontese).  (Cagliano’s misspelling has been perpetuated by most subsequent writers on gianduia.)

3.  Cagliano, 53.

4.  Recall that, at the time Cagliano published the article, Succ. Caffarel Prochet & Co. had gone through many changes of ownership and management, leaving no substantive connection to the Caffarel or Prochet families.

5.  Caffarel S.p.A (ed.).  Caffarel, 170 Anni: Avanti, Sempre Più Avanti (La Meravigliosa Storia del “Cioccolato d’Autore”).  Caffarel S.p.A.  1996.  P. 254.

6.  The 1899 statement, as quoted by the subsequent circular, correctly spells givo.  The fact that Cagliano spelled the word phonetically (per Note 2, above) may mean that he was read or told the contents of the twenieth century circular, without having actually seen the document.

7.  Caffarel, 254.

8.  The book includes a broad swath of key documents from the company’s history, making this omission conspicuous.

9.  In response to requests for access to (or a photograph, copy, or scan of) the 1867 certificate and 1869 parchment, a representative of Caffarel S.p.A. confirmed, after an internal search, that the company does not possess the documents.  Another source who has had access to the Caffarel archives informs me that the company does not have the documents and expresses skepticism about whether it ever did.

10.  See, for example: Marsero, Mario.  Dolci, Delizie Subalpine: Piccola Storia dell’Arte Dolciaria a Torino e in Piemonte.  Lindau.  Turin.  1995.  P. 74.  Ainardi, Mauro Silvio and Paolo Brunati.  Le Fabbriche da Cioccolata: Nasscita e Sviluppo di un’Industria Lungo i Canali di Torino.  Umberto Allemandi & C., 2008.  P. 108.  Also, “Gianduiotto,” in Le Parole Raccontano (ed. Fondazione Piemontese per la Ricerca sul Cancro).  Einaudi.  Turin.  1987.  P. 131.

11.  Gianeri, Enrico.  Storia di Torino Industriale: Il Miracolo della Ceronda.  Editrice Piemonte in Bancarella.  Turin.  1976.  P. 123.  Gianeri (aka GEC)—a Florentine journalist, attorney, cartoonist, and popular historian—wrote prolifically, specializing in the history of political satire and caricature.  Gianeri does not reveal his source for the parchment text, though presumably it was from Caffarel, Prochet & Co.  His treatment, generally, of Turin’s chocolate industry in nineteenth century includes many factual errors, including: Cailler’s apprenticeship under Caffarel, the invention of gianduia under the Continental System (in 1806), the 1826 origin of the Caffarel company, anachronistic fusions of Caffarel and Prochet, a mistaken date and location of Michele Talmone’s birth, et al.

12.  See Note 9, above.

13.  Cagliano slips into similar error elsewhere in his article, referring mistakenly to “Michele Caffarel,” rather than Michele Prochet.

14.  This fact has not prevented some writers from filling in the blanks.

15.  Cagliano rhapsodizes about the excellence of gianduia and its superiority over other chocolates of its day.  He psychologizes about the emotions “Michele Caffarel” [sic] must have felt at the naming of “the fruit of his ingenuity, that certainly cost him much study, work, and sacrifice.”  He paints a lively word picture of the 1867 carnival season, in which “it was no longer the King in command of the Piedmontese capital, but His Majesty Gianduia who made the decrees and laws.”  He writes with excitement, pride, and nationalism.

16.  Several examples were detailed in previous parts of this series, including the 1852 invention of gianduia paste by Michele Prochet, the 1826 origin of the Caffarel company, and the apprenticeship of François-Louis Cailler under Caffarel in Turin.

17.  Gazzetta del Popolo, March 11, 1867.

18.  Gazzetta del Popolo, March 4, 1868.  Announcements in subsequent years stated that the parchments of honor were awarded to exhibitors not in competition (fuori concorso).

19.  Gazzetta del Popolo, February 13, 1869.

20.  This was Paolo Ernesto Caffarel, son of Pierre Paul Caffarel, nephew of Isidore Caffarel, and grandson of company founder Paul Caffarel.  The Gazzetta Piemontese for the same carnival season lists the winners in the livestock and wine competitions (on February 9 and 14, respectively), but not the awards for crews and booths.

21.  Gazzetta del Popolo, March 3, 1870.  See also, Gazzetta Piemontese, March 3, 1870.

22.  Gazzetta del Popolo, March 11, 1867.

23.  The language and format of the 1869 parchment are generally consistent with the context.  In 1868, some Society of Gianduia bulletins began with Gianduia’s self-introduction, “Noi, Gianduja, Primo, Ùnico, e Vero.”  The parchment text is dated “Mercô Scurot,” Piedmontese for Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday in 1869 fell on February 10, three days before the public announcement in the Gazzetta del Popolo, which makes the timing right.  The wryly faux formality (including the Horatian lippis et tonsoribus) is persuasive.  If the base text is not legitimate, it would be a remarkably sophisticated forgery.  The only sign of obvious anachronism in the text—and it a serious one, indeed—is the name of the recipients.  According to the text, the 1869 parchment was given to “Caffarel Prochet Gay.”  Caffarel and Prochet did not join together until 1877.  The Gay family were never partnered with Caffarel, neither before nor after the 1877 formation of Caffarel, Prochet & Co.  The company’s 1930s claims that gianduiotti were named in 1869 are also in direct conflict with the earlier circular and 1899 statement that claimed gianduiotti were named in 1867.

24.  Bächstädt-Malan, Christian.  Per Una Storia dell’Industria Dolciaria Torinese: il Caso Caffarel.   Doctoral thesis (Economics and Business), Universitá degli Studi di Torino.  2002.   P. 86.

25.  This raises reasonable suspicion that the anachronistic name in the 1869 parchment text (per Note 23, above) resulted from twentieth century redaction, in an effort to elide this distinction and retroactively fuse Prochet’s invention claims (per the 1899 company statement) and the naming narrative offered by Cagliano.